Entry of the popular website Craigslist in a community is linked to 16 percent increase in HIV in that area, say researchers from New York University’s Stern School of Business.
“Our study results suggest that there is a new social route of HIV transmission that is taking place in this digital era,” said Jason Chan, assistant professor at Carlson School of Management.
“Health care practitioners and policymakers have to look more closely at online platforms to assess how its usage may facilitate the spread of HIV and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) across the country,” Chan added.
The researchers based their claims after analysing data in 33 states from 1999 to 2008.
After conducting a series of tests to eliminate other possible causes that might be driving the HIV trends such as increased testing in a community, the researchers discovered that the upward shift was influenced by advertisements in Craigslist’s personal sections, not the site’s escort service ads.
“I actually think that the creators of Craigslist had no intent of harming society. They came in with good intentions,” Chan noted.
“At the same time, they did not anticipate that users could use the features in an unexpected way with unintended consequences,” he added.
The study was published in the journal MIS Quarterly.
Chan, J. and Ghose, A.”Internet’s Dirty Secret: Assessing the Impact of Online Intermediaries on HIV Transmission,”, MIS Quarterly (December 2014)